Stuff. We’ve all got it, some of us more than others. Just as work expands to fill the time allotted, our possessions have a tendency to spill over into every available space. Unless you are incredibly organized or just plain ruthless when it comes to getting rid of excess, you face a common challenge: where to store it all?
Before the “amazing expanding stuff phenomenon” drives you to buy a bigger home or host an everything-goes mega yard sale, consider these helpful storage solutions.
“First, you have to identify what you need to store and then find the most efficient way to store it,” says Michael Koontz of Koontz Furniture and Design Studio in Ocala. “Usually, this is best done in the area where you will use the items you’re storing.”
For example, clothing is a main storage concern in the bedroom, but traditional dressers may not offer enough room. But who says bedroom furniture has to be predictable? Koontz suggests using one of the new, extra tall dressers that afford plenty of additional space. There’s no reason, he adds, to insist that a mirror top the dresser. Instead, hang a mirror elsewhere in the room to open up the space and reflect light in the most advantageous way.
Speaking of mirrors, the larger the mirror, the more potential for storage. Where, you ask? Why, behind the mirror itself, of course.
“You can buy a custom-made mirror with storage,” says Koontz, “or make one yourself. They are great for storing jewelry, CDs, and other small items.”
A storage mirror is basically built like a large shadow box with the mirror on piano hinges serving as a cupboard door. If you build one yourself, be sure the hinges are strong enough for the weight of the mirror. For heavier mirrors, you may want to actually set the box into the wall. This also keeps the mirror from extending more than usual from the wall.
Storage solutions may already be in your home; they just might not be in the right room. Homeowners frequently have pieces of furniture that can serve multiple functions, often in surprising ways.
Koontz has had great success using unlikely pieces in rooms where they aren’t typically found. A china cabinet shouldn’t just be relegated to the dining room holding rarely used dishes when it can serve as well — or better — in the bedroom or family room.
“You can use furniture as a focal point that also works as great storage,” notes Koontz. He suggests obscuring the glass in a china cabinet with fabric or cane so that the contents aren’t visible. That beautiful antique hutch can then become a handy storage center for clothing, bedding, games or craft items.
In Plain Sight
Sometimes the best storage is right in the open; it just doesn’t appear that way to guests.
Storage ottomans are an excellent example of such practicality. Available in every style from rugged and masculine to romantic and feminine, the versatile ottoman can serve as extra seating, foot rest, coffee table and storage area. Look for those with lift-up lids or slide-out drawers to make the most of the room inside.
Koontz also suggests coffee tables with flip-up tops or drawers for storage.
Antique trunks come in many shapes and sizes and offer excellent storage options for everything from books and photo albums to gift wrap and craft supplies. They also serve beautifully as coffee and end tables, depending on their size. Scout out antique shops and estate sales for trunks. Look for ones with lift-out drawers to provide an additional layer of storage. (Old trunks can be musty. Place activated charcoal inside and shut the lid for a few days to remove odors. Air out completely before storing items.)
A stack of vintage suitcases is another clever way to create an end table and provide storage at the same time. Since you won’t want to “unstack” your end table daily, use the suitcases to store items you don’t need to access frequently, such as seasonal decorations, yearbooks, or memorabilia. Look for old suitcases in good condition in antique shops and don’t forget your grandmother’s attic. You can decoupage old travel labels or antique photos onto the suitcases for a playful look.
Although feng shui experts will tell you that keeping anything under the bed blocks the flow of energy in a room, many homeowners rely on this extra space for storage.
A bed skirt or ruffle will keep plastic bins or drawers out of sight. If you have an old dresser you no longer need, use the drawers to create under-the-bed storage for seasonal clothing or extra bedding.
During renovation or when building a new home, make full use of closet doors by turning them into floor-to-ceiling bookcases.
“You’re going to have a door there any way, so take advantage of this space,” says Koontz. Kids love this idea because it hints of secrecy. Open the bookshelf and voila! A hidden closet or tiny playroom appears.
Koontz finds that dining rooms are often brimming with wasted space and storage opportunities.
“This is a room that many people rarely use,” he offers. “Look for versatile furniture that is both attractive and utilitarian. An armoire can go into any room and be used for everything from clothing to serving as a bar or entertainment center. Just equip the interior to accommodate whatever you want to store inside.”
Take a few minutes to walk through your home and view things in a different light. You may discover storage options that have been there all along if you just shuffle some furniture and assign new uses to certain pieces. And if you find some things you can truly live without, take heart. It’s a great time of year for a yard sale!
Seven Simple Solutions
1. Hat boxes and decorative paper boxes: attractive enough to leave out in the living or family room and perfect for stashing knitting, kids books, and the latest paperback.
2. Ceramic pitchers: ideal for pens and pencils on a desk, as a flower vase, or in the bathroom to hold hair accessories.
3. Antique bowls: pretty stacked on a shelf or counter, empty or filled with fruit or veggies.
4. Baskets: organize accessories in closets, bathrooms, or kitchen.
5. Silverware drawer organizer: use to corral cosmetics and hair accessories in a bathroom drawer, odds and ends in a kitchen drawer, art supplies in a kid’s bedroom or play room.
6. Over-the-door hanging plastic organizer with pockets: gain extra storage space in any closet for nail polish, hair accessories, jewelry, scarves, belts, kids arts and crafts supplies, small toys, dolls, and
7. Ice chests: great for storing camping gear in the garage, just make sure the chest is clean and dry.